The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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21. Nevada
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +4.9% (8th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $165.8 billion (18th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.0% (tied — 13th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.8% (4th largest increase)

The GDP of Nevada grew at an average annual rate of 4.9% from 2013 to 2018, the eighth largest increase of any state. Growth was driven by the state’s booming information sector, which grew at a nation-leading pace of 13.2% over the same period — more than twice the sector’s national growth rate. Some of the biggest recent tech investments in the state include an Apple data center in Sparks completed in February 2019, a Google data center in Henderson slated for completion in December 2020, and the Tesla’s battery assembly facility Gigafactory 1 in Sparks, currently operational and undergoing further construction.

While Nevada is posting some of the fastest GDP growth rates in the nation, it lags behind the country as a whole in other measures of economic health. Just 24.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the sixth smallest share of any state. Additionally, while unemployment has fallen more in Nevada over the last five years than in any state other than Rhode Island, some 4.0% of the Nevada workforce remains out of work, above the 3.6% national figure.

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22. Maine
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.7% (23rd largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $64.4 billion (8th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.3% (tied — 18th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.5% (10th smallest increase)

With a GDP of $64.4 billion, Maine is the eighth smallest economy in the United States. The state economy has experienced a relatively lackluster growth over the past five years, with GDP increasing at an average annual rate of 3.7% — compared to 4.1% nationwide. Some of the fastest growing sectors include arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services, professional and business services, and construction. Meanwhile, the fastest shrinking sectors include mining and utilities.

In other measures of economic health, Maine is roughly in line with the nation as a whole. Some 32.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the 32.0% national college attainment rate. Additionally, 3.3% of the Maine workforce is out of a job, slightly below the 3.6% national unemployment rate.

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23. Arizona
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +4.7% (10th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $346.8 billion (20th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 3rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +3.2% (the largest increase)

The population of Arizona increased 7.9% due to net migration from 2010 to 2018, more than three times the 2.5% national rate and the fourth most of any state. Employment grew at an average annual rate of 3.2% from 2013 to 2018, more than twice the national growth rate and the largest increase of any state.

While Arizona is outpacing the nation as a whole in GDP growth, the state lags behind the country as a whole in other measures of economic health. The typical household earns roughly $4,000 less than the typical U.S. household annually, and 14.9% of residents live in poverty — more than the 13.4% national poverty rate. Arizona also has one of the least healthy job markets of any state. Some 4.3% of the Arizona workforce is currently unemployed, the third highest unemployment rate nationwide.

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24. North Carolina
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +4.4% (14th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $565.8 billion (11th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.0% (tied — 13th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.1% (14th largest increase)

The population of North Carolina grew 5.9% due to net migration from 2010 to 2018, more than twice the 2.5% national rate. GDP grew at an average annual rate of 4.4% from 2013 to 2018, outpacing the 4.1% national GDP growth rate. Like the nation as a whole, the fastest-growing sectors in North Carolina were construction, information, and transportation and warehousing.

Some factors likely attracting new residents to North Carolina may be the state’s low cost of living — goods and services cost 8.7% less in North Carolina than they do nationwide — and housing affordability. Still, North Carolina lags behind the country as a whole in other measures important to economic health. Some 14.7% of North Carolina residents live in poverty, and 4.0% of the workforce is unemployed — both greater than the respective national rates of 13.4% and 3.6%.

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25. Tennessee
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +4.5% (12th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $365.6 billion (19th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.2% (tied — 14th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.1% (15th largest increase)

From 2010 to 2018, the population of Tennessee grew at an average annual rate of 4.6% due to net migration, outpacing the 2.5% national rate. Some pull factors likely include the state’s low cost of living — goods and services cost 9.6% less in Tennessee than they do nationwide — and falling unemployment. The unemployment rate fell from 6.6% in April 2014 to 3.2% in April 2019 — the sixth largest percentage-point drop of any state. From 2013 to 2018 the GDP of Tennessee grew at an average annual rate of 4.5% — greater than the 4.1% national figure.

In other measures of economic health, however, Tennessee lags far behind the country as a whole. Just 27.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, far below the 32.0% national college attainment rate. Individuals with less college attainment are more likely to struggle financially, and 15.0% of residents in Tennessee live in poverty — the 10th highest poverty rate of any state.